“More beautiful than you think” is the final message displayed in the new Dove campaign. A strong statement but my feelings towards this campaign have been bothering me all day. Not because it’s particularly controversial, but because when I first saw it, I thought it was well done and I fell for the sentiment, the story. But the more I think about message and who’s putting it out there, the more irritated I am that it got to me.
We all know advertisement campaigns are clever and are very good at targeting their audience, and this one is no different. The new Dove campaign for real beauty is well-done and captivating, but as I was watching it, I couldn’t help but feel unsettled, tricked – though I also agreed with parts of their message. It’s a message I wanted to hear.
Beauty campaigns have such a great influence on the way women view themselves and how they are viewed in society. Eating disorders and self-esteem issues continue to be relevant health concerns for women. So what is Dove doing wrong? Perhaps this is a positive step for the beauty industry?
The Dove campaign focuses on ‘real beauty and this video continues this messaging with a touching, well-done story. Women should value their own beauty more, as they are more beautiful than they realize. But as a producer of beauty products, Dove has their own agenda.
Dove has portrayed themselves as alternative cosmetic company, emphasizing real beauty, yet, as pointed out by Elizabeth Plank from the Policy Mic (http://www.policymic.com/articles/35593/can-this-new-dove-campaign-make-you-believe-you-re-more-beautiful-than-you-think), Dove is owned by Unilever, which also owns Axe. Axe advertisements are terribly degrading and sexist. If Dove was truly about real beauty, would they agree to be tied to a company such as Axe?
There are many other concerns one can raise about the campaign, as is well done by this blogger: http://jazzylittledrops.tumblr.com/post/48118645174/why-doves-real-beauty-sketches-video-makes-me
In particular, her discussion on what is seen as beautiful in the campaign is still focused on a very narrow version of beautiful – blue eyes, thin face, small chin. What about the many other shapes, colors, sizes that exist that are beautiful in their own right?
BUT perhaps what bothers me about it most is that Dove continues to spread the message that beauty, however we define it, is still one of the most important characteristics a woman should have. But hey, they’re a cosmetic company, what can we expect!
“Dove was right about one thing: you are more beautiful than you know. But please, please hear me: you are so, so much more than beautiful.” (http://jazzylittledrops.tumblr.com/post/48118645174/why-doves-real-beauty-sketches-video-makes-me)
So what can I learn from this effectively irritating campaign? To remain critical and to examine my reaction to campaigns like this to understand why they worked for me and why they didn’t. The Dove campaign has been very successful, they’ve targeted female insecurities in a whole new way, which speak to me, but the continual focus on the importance of beauty remains.
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has done great work in the field of Ecohealth. It is an excellent resource for those interested in learning more about the field. (http://www.idrc.ca/EN/Programs/Agriculture_and_the_Environment/Ecosystem_Approaches_to_Human_Health/Pages/default.aspx)
The International Association for Ecology and Health has published the Ecohealth journal since 2004. In Canada, the Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem approaches to Health has been active since 2008. Please see this Ecohealth Presentation for further information and resources!
The suicide of young Amanda Todd in BC was a tragic case of cyber bullying that shocked not only the province, but had resonating impacts across the country as she shared her pain with the country before ending her life. As her family and friends struggled to come to terms with her premature death, online comments making light of her death and blaming her for being bullied continued on social media sites (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/10/14/bc-amanda-todd.html). Within one month of this tragic event, the BC government announced the launch of a new online reporting tool designed to let young people anonymously report those who abuse or intimidate them (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/11/13/bc-video-anti-bullying-website.html).
The ‘Expect Respect and Safe Education’ (ERASE) Bullying website (http://www.erasebullying.ca/) is a health promotion website that is targeted at Youth, Parents and school. It includes a reporting tool that allows youth to anonymously report on bullying. It also educates caregivers, parents and schools on what bullying is and provides advice for creating safe school communities. The website also points to Policy resources and legislation that are in place to prevent bullying and violence in schools.
The ERASE Bullying “Policy to Action” component of the website is designed to help make ‘B.C. a leader in addressing bullying and harmful behaviours”. The strategy includes amongst other items increasing education for educators and community partners and stronger codes of conducts for schools. Additional suggestions are made to educate teachers. Though I agree that teachers do need training to help them properly deal with bullying the classroom, the burden of the responsibility should not be placed on them. They frequently work with large class sizes and work with diverse students with a range of social and academic needs. Though the strategies suggested are valid, they don’t seem sufficient. The website points to legislation that is targeted towards enhancing safe schools and youth violence that have been in place since 2004. This legislation is focused primarily on penalizing youth. While I do not wish to detract from these initiatives as they have their place and use, the heart of the issue surrounding bullying and violence seems largely untouched and the effectiveness of these policies and legislation seems to be limited.
Research about children’s mental health has shown that early child development programs for high-risk families and parent training is effective treatment and prevention of conduct disorder, or severe antisocial behaviour while incarceration and punishment have been shown to be ineffective and potentially harmful (Waddell et al., 2005). However, the ERASE initiative, as most bully initiatives, remain focused on the victim and ensuring those perpetrating the acts of bullying are caught and reprimanded (e.g. http://www.stopabully.ca/). Though I am far from an expert in this field, I wonder what programs and support systems are in place to work with those youth that exhibit bully behaviour? More resources within schools that deal with youth mental health are required to deal with youth at both ends of the spectrum; simply dealing with the outcomes of bullying is not a sufficient tactic for dealing with this continued health issue so prevalent in schools and amongst youth. Why has research in children’s mental health not had a greater impact on the way we address this issue?
Waddell, C., Lavis, J.N., Abelson, J., Lomas, J., Shepherd, C.A., Bird-Gayson, T., Giacomini, M., and Offord, D.R. (2005). Research use in children’s mental health policy in Canada: Maintaining vigilance amid ambiguity. Social Science & Medicine. 61: 1649-1657.
Using Social Media to Educate and Reduce Stigma
As this week’s theme was on social marketing, I thought that I would take this opportunity to bring to your attention a really interesting use of social marketing techniques to challenge stigma against those living with HIV and increase testing and awareness among youth. The Stigma Project is a grassroots organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media and advertising.
Believe it or not, Paris Hilton was an individual that really helped the project get off the ground and gain momentum. In the fall of 2012, she made incredibly uninformed and distasteful remarks regarding the transmission of AIDS within the gay community. Scott McPherson and Chris Richey of Los Angeles took note of these comments and decided to use them in the fight against HIV stigma. They made a Paris Hilton meme, which went viral and helped to give their website (www.thestigmaproject.com) plenty of positive attention.
The stigma project markets the idea of living “HIV neutral”, which it describes in its mission statement as a “state of mind, regardless of your status, in which you are informed and aware of the constantly evolving state of HIV/AIDS.… It is putting emphasis on the humanity of all people and not casting judgment because of their status, positive or negative.”
The goals of this project are to lower rates of HIV transmission, and also to improve the quality of life for those living with HIV. According to McPherson, one of the creators of the project, 84% of youth, ages 18 to 34 can be reached through social media. This is also the age group in which there is the highest rate of HIV transmission and therefore social media may be an effective way to target this population. The messages are appealing to youth, as they are witty, make use of pop culture references, and are never preachy. The campaign protests against the use of the words “dirty/clean” to refer to a person’s HIV status. It also uses eye-catching graphics and “social math” to convey information about the numbers of people living with HIV and rates of testing. Finally, it uses education as a weapon against stigma and aims to break misconceptions of how HIV can be transmitted, such as through kissing and hugging.
I could not find any evaluations of this program online, as it is so recent but the facebook page has 5, 500 “likes”, which indicates that many people are interested in the project. It is likely that on top of these people, there are many others who have heard of the project.
Personally, after hearing about this project and checking out their website, I am much more conscious about how I speak about HIV and whether the language I use could be reinforcing stigma. I think that this campaign is doing a wonderful job of using social media to reduce stigma, educate, and empower.
Here is my evaluation of the 4 Ps of this project.
The product: Getting people to change their language and ideas regarding HIV, HIV transmission, and individuals who are HIV positive
Place: The internet, mostly through social media sites such as facebook and twitter. In addition, there were posters printed and displayed in public places.
Price: Giving up competing pre-established language and knowledge surrounding HIV, potentially causing alienation from peers
Promotion: Catchy internet memes and images, short internet videos, and merchandise
Be sure to check out their website: http://www.thestigmaproject.com